Wonderful Words

Soundbites are sometimes knocked in the modern world, with critics complaining they're used too often and too easily.

Which may be true, but…

When done well, they can be stunning. And I’ve seen a brilliant example this week, from a perhaps unexpected quarter.

More of that in a moment, but I thought it was a good opportunity to talk about soundbites, and how to create them.

For all the fancy name, a soundbite is just a way to make your most important messages stand out, whether in a talk, presentation, or a piece of writing - 

And who wouldn't be interested in that?

 

The Threes

The human ear loves the rhythm of threes, and it was this trick which was the backbone of the beautiful soundbite I heard this week.

But they've been used for many years before now.

For example (and with all these, see if you can get the author before you look them up) –

 

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

Veni, vidi, vici.

Or even in pop music...

Gimme, gimme, gimme a man after midnight.

 

Why do these live down the years? Because the use of threes helps to make them memorable. 

This is probably my favourite way of framing a soundbite.

If in doubt, and unable to find any other options, it’s for the rule of three I tend to flee.

(Excuse the rhyming soundbite of my own!)

 

Counterpoint

This is another great way of creating a soundbite; set out one point, and then leap over to the opposite.

Again, that helps to make the words memorable. For example -

 

I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king.

We realise the importance of light when we see darkness. We realise the importance of our voice when we are silenced. We realised the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…

 

Alliteration

Probably best used in speeches and presentations, although they can still work in written form... 

Alliteration is another useful way of making messages stick in the mind. For example - 

 

The dull, drilled, docile, brutish masses of the Hun soldiery.

The people’s princess.

The words of the prophets, Are written on the subway walls, And tenement halls, And whispered in the sounds of silence.


A word of warning here -

Soundbites should be used sparingly.

In a five minute presentation, I wouldn’t slip in more than one, or perhaps two in 10 minutes.

But used well, they can ensure your key messages really make a mark.

So, finally, to that brilliant soundbite I heard this week –

 

We will be with our friends again

We will be with our families again

We will meet again

 

It came from no less than Her Majesty the Queen, addressing the nation about the coronavirus crisis.

And did it make a mark? 

You bet. It was quoted in just about every media report on her words, because it was so powerful, so resonant, and so simply spot-on.